News & Opinion

Caddie conundrum could leave PGA Tour holding bag

Players and caddies at sunset
Golfers and their caddies form an integral bond in professional golf, but the tradition might be up for review on the PGA Tour because of the social-distancing guidelines designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.

John Hawkins carries the load for loopers, but Mike Purkey counters that caddies are merely extra baggage when balanced against social-distancing needs for the Tour’s restart next month

Hawk & Purk Podcast Hero Article

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

If the PGA Tour resumes play next month, as scheduled, should it be with or without caddies?

Hawk’s take: Why restart the season so soon if the situation with coronavirus is that dangerous or dire? The big picture is all that matters here. A golf tournament does not come close to qualifying as an “essential business” by any logical standard, so you lay up and wait for a better opportunity. Risk avoidance. Even a dumbass such as myself can figure that out.

Staging a Tour event without caddies is like opening a restaurant without waiters. It can be done, but it compromises the product and alters the competitive element. Allowing 144 caddies onto the grounds would do a lot more good than harm. You test them for the coronavirus, make them sign a waiver and send them out to work.

As much as I’d love to see the pros lugging around their 70-pound bags in grueling summer heat, this is not college golf. When you’re playing for $8 million a week, you hire someone to do the heavy lifting and focus on shooting the lowest score. Appropriate provisions obviously need to implemented – social distancing doesn’t go on vacation, and if caddies should wear gloves and masks, make it a requirement – but there’s a way to do this without anyone getting sick.

If not, let’s move it back to July.

Purk’s take: Before every caddie on the PGA Tour lights up my email box, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I don’t want to eliminate caddies on Tour. I just want the first event or two when the Tour returns from the coronavirus pandemic next month to be caddie-free.

And here’s why. Just as we are taking these first tenuous steps to partially reopen our country, we have to do this in phases, all the while remembering how we helped prevent potentially millions more coronavirus cases and deaths. No matter how many precautions we take, we really have no idea how restarting the PGA Tour is going to work.

The fewer people onsite for the first week or two, the better. Caddies and players spend an inordinate amount of time together and in close proximity. And we certainly don’t want a lot of hands on flagsticks or bunker rakes. Players can do without caddies for a week or two. It won’t hurt them to figure their own yardage and pull their own clubs. Come to think about it, pace of play might even pick up.

By the way, and this is just me, if the players have to hoof without caddies for a week or two, don’t allow push carts. Make ’em tote.

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